Many of us know what to do when it comes to basic money management – spend less than you make, save on an emergency fund, and invest in retirement. However, establishing good habits is always easier said than done.
Money management, like many important things in life, requires discipline. And discipline is not a natural state of mind for everyone. Add to this the guilt and shame some of us bear on finance and you have a recipe for money management misery. Or at least a sense of why the “Strauss approach” may seem more attractive than addressing the underlying issues.
But as appealing as it may seem, there is not a single financial guru who advocates the Strauss approach as a means of achieving financial fitness! In fact, this path will only instill more guilt and shame in the long run.
Fortunately, there are some relatively simple steps you can take to move from negative feelings and lack of discipline to positive money mindsets and great habits.
So let's go!
1. Forgive yourself for your financial mistakes
There are probably few people who can claim that they NEVER missed a credit card or bill payment, never had an impromptu session of excessive spending, and never searched their savings without good reason. If you are one of those people, you should probably be the next financial guru. It is time for the rest of us to practice forgiveness.
Brittney Castro, Certified Financial Planner and Founder of Financially Wise Women, says, “Forgiveness is a powerful tool because it prevents us from being a prisoner of our past. When we are no longer ashamed, we can make room for better practices and a healthier approach to money. “It is important to see and accept what happened. Apologize to yourself (and those around you, if necessary) and focus on moving forward.
Please also remember these wise words from Brittney: "Your financial mistakes are not you – your self-worth is independent of your mistakes."
2. Understand your money mindset
While you may think that you know your attitude towards money, it is possible that you do not know exactly how your views influence your decision-making.
Brittney Castro suggests tracking the thoughts that pop up every time you make a money decision. Since we make so many monetary decisions in our lives, it may be enough to just do so for a day and then check the results for patterns to increase your awareness of your attitudes. With more clarity in your mindset, you can identify beliefs and habits that affect your ability to stick to (or even create) goals and plans.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
In the age of social media, reality TV, and celebrity magazines, it's way too easy to make comparisons. We compare ourselves with other family members, with our friends, with celebrities and with fictional characters on television.
This is not a great way to pass your time for several reasons:
You compare what you know about yourself (i.e. everything – "warts and everything!") To what you see of someone else (i.e. the best side he shows you).
Also, you don't know the exact details of the other person's finances. Someone seems to have an amazing life full of fabulous clothes, vacations, and other fun things, but it could be fueled by credit card debt … or worse! For a real-world example, check out the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Not everything that glitters is gold.
When you make comparisons and find that you are missing something, you divert attention (and possibly activity) from focusing on your own finances and pursuits.
So create achievable goals and compare yourself with them. Celebrate the victories and update your goals as soon as you achieve them.
4. Create (and maintain) good habits
Once you have some goals in mind and have the price in mind, it's time to set the habits that will ensure you get there. If you've never done a deep dive into your income, expenses or budget, this is a good time to give this a try. Knowing where to spend your money can help determine where to save more if that is your goal. This awareness also helps you select achievable goals – even if it's a stretch – so that you can build on your success rather than being paralyzed by failure.
A particularly effective habit is setting up a set time – one hour a week – to review your finances and monitor your progress. If an hour seems like a lot, it's worth noting that millionaires spend an average of 8.4 hours per month managing their money. That is roughly two hours a week. You can use a platform like Mint.com, your bank account app, or a simple spreadsheet – just check everything.
When you're in a relationship, pick a mutually beneficial time and make sure you're fully present for the duration of the conversation. Granted, money discussions don't always go smoothly for couples, and arguments can arise. However, pushing through the complaints can mean the difference between staying together or breaking up for some couples.
Even if you do decide that one of you will be the primary money manager, personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi recommends, "Make sure you are on the same financial page and agree on the goals so there is no misunderstanding." When the two of you have a clear picture of finances, consider how you would like to delegate money together. "
5. Optimize your budget for happiness
The word “budget” can fill people with fear because it reminds one of limitations.
Manisha Thakor has a more positive attitude as she believes, "Soft boundaries can set you free." This is because knowing where you're spending your money – as opposed to having no idea where it's going – is a far more powerful place.
This awareness ensures that you can optimize your spending so that you focus your hard earned money on what matters most to you. Ashley Feinstein, Founder of Knowing Your Worth, explains, "Sometimes we spend on things that don't make us really happy just because we think we should." How much of what you spend is for you and your goals? … What do you spend on what you really enjoy? "
A good guideline for budgeting is the 50/30/20 rule. This includes aligning 50% of your income with needs (housing, food, gas, medication), 30% with needs (vacation, the painting class you've always wanted to take) and 20% with savings. If you are in debt, that 20% can be used to pay it off first. If you separate the 30% and 20% from the 50%, you will likely be fine without checking everything one by one every month. Plus, with that 30% you can go wild and spend it on anything you want!
6. Practice gratitude
Lastly, daily affirmations and gratitude for what you have can be really powerful.
Kali Hawlk, GoGirl Finance employee, suggests keeping a journal: “First, every day, write down one thing for which you are grateful (financially and personally). Return to your gratitude journal when you feel overwhelmed or negative about your own finances (or a life situation). "
The simplest practices can make all the difference.
This post was written by Rebecca Jackson from GoGirl Finance. GoGirl Finance is a rapidly growing community of women seeking and imparting financial wisdom regarding money management, lifestyle, family, and careers. For more finance tips, visit GoGirl Finance on Twitter @GoGirlFinance.